Tag Archives: Maher Arar

SF Writer Beaten and Arrested at US Border

I say US border because it turns out, in Port Huron, one must go through a US checkpoint before the Canadian checkpoint when leaving the US. SF writer Dr. Peter Watts was beaten and arrested by US border guards this week when they stopped him to search his car and he asked them what was going on.

His belongings were seized (notepad, flashdrive, computer, rental car, coat) and he was released on foot after being arraigned and charged into Ontario’s winter snowstorm in nothing more than shirtsleeves. Luckily, he didn’t die of exposure. There have been cases of people picked up by police and then dropped off in extreme weather to then die of hypothermia. Frank Paul was one.

Thankfully Watts wasn’t tasered as the BC RCMP did to Robert Dziekanski. He will thus live and get a chance to refute the charge by the US Homeland Security office (a name that has always raised my hackles and reminds me of some Nazi-esque terminology) that could land him in a US prison for two years.

According to his words he didn’t resist and didn’t fight these border thugs but that didn’t stop them from asserting more power than was needed and abusing people because they feel they’re untouchable. I have never had problems with the Blaine border crossing except for one jerk (oops two) who were more interesting in threatening than in being reasonable and most border guards are people who just do their jobs. Some are friendlier and some of cold and efficient. And a few throughout the US and Canada take their power and push it like dictators.

Perhaps Peter Watts can get the appropriate minister or MP of the government of Canada to help him out. When you look at Canada’s record with Canadians stuck abroad, or, like Maher Arar, allowed to be taken to another country and tortured so that the US and Canada could pretend that they wanted torture, it’s not that good. Watts is white though and not Muslim so he might stand a better chance. Harper’s government isn’t exactly known for being compassionate towards those who are white.

He now faces a long and scary road through the US legal system and if it’s anything like here, the police or US guards are rarely found in wrongdoing. How many cases of people killed while in police custody have ever resulted in an officer being charged and the case not dismissed as accidental? Not many I tell you. Watts will probably have to spend more money than he has to try and save himself, and in the end, if he doesn’t serve time, he may still be blacklisted from ever entering the US. Good luck to him and I hope our government will intervene but we can’t count on that anymore.

Following are the articles at BoingBoing and Watts’ own blog:

http://www.rifters.com/crawl/?p=932

http://www.boingboing.net/2009/12/11/dr-peter-watts-canad.html#more

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Omar Khadr, Politics and Guantanamo

From CBC’s website: http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/khadr/omar-khadr.html

On March 31, 2008, Senator Romeo Dallaire added his name to the growing list of people calling for the Canadian Government to do more to get Omar Khadrout of Guantanamo Bay and back into Canada. Khadr has been held without trial at the U.S. military prison there for five and a half years. He’s being tried for the murder of a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan in 2002, and questioned repeatedly about his own and his family’s links to al Qaeda.

There has been much ado about Omar Khadr, the child soldier caught during one of the Afghanistan raids by US forces. He’s the only Canadian still held at Guantanamo Bay and is finally, supposedly coming to trial. But there are complications. Part is that he was a brainwashed teenager who believed in fundamental Islam. The Canadian government hasn’t wanted to dirty its hands and his family here has come across as unsympathetic in their support Al Qaeda beliefs.

However, there are some fundamental aspects to war and Guantanamo Bay that I’m finding hard to fathom. Guantanamo, holding pen for people on the wrong side of George Bush’s crusade. I’m betting that 90% or more of them have brown skin. I’m betting a fair number are Muslims. Today CBC was talking about the unwanted in Guantanamo Bay. Nine hundred people have been processed through there in seven years. And most of those people were innocent, probably living quietly now and too afraid or ashamed to mention what happened, that the US made a mistake, a huge mistake There are another five hundred still there and most of them will never be charged. What to do with them.

Well, the US is trying to send them off to other countries or their home countries, to settle back in. But the US will not send people to a country that has other human rights issues. Does anyone else see the irony in this?Hello? What was being held for seven years without representation or a trial? Putting the people on Guantanamo Bay instead of US soil doesn’t excuse US policy and the military for infringement of rights. We could call this one of the biggest follies in recent history. George Bush’s little rug under which to sweep the dirty politics.

Now, of those people who don’t want to go back to their home countries (because they’d be tortured) or the US won’t send them, well they’re stuck waiting for some other country to help the US clean up its mess. The US, for some odd reason, doesn’t want to actually repatriate any of these people in the US. Come on, CIA, you can watch those potential bad guys right on your own doorstep.

Okay, so Guantanamo is made up of a mixture of several groups. Some are people picked up as suspected terrorists. You can bet that anyone they thought for sure was active was already shipped to a country with “soft” human rights when it comes to prisoners, and that those people were already tortured for information.  Just look at Canadian citizen Maher Arar, who after being sent to Syria by US officials for torture, was found to be innocent. Even after that, the US refuses to give him an apology. http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/arar/

We know there are many other innocents, people in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong color skin, who ended up in Guantanamo. There are also those who have fought against the US in Afghanistan or Iraq. Hmm, let’s see, the US invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. Not to say that there wasn’t huge subjugation and injustices perpetrated against those citizens but I always thought that soldiers (whether paid or volunteer) were taken as prisoners of war. Those taken, say, in WWII, who were Nazis, were usually released back at the end of the war. Those who had committed unspeakable humans rights violations were tried for those crimes that contravened the Geneva Convention.

So, what about those people in Guantanamo? Are some awaiting an end of an endless war? Are some awaiting trial? It’s a pretty grey no-man’s land there. But let’s look at Omar Khadr again. He was a soldier recruited/influenced/brainwashed at a young age to fight. He was in a firefight when he was taken. Soldiers against soldiers in Afghanistan. But he’s being tried as an adult (they had to wait several years for that) for terrorism? For war crimes? There have been many child soldiers from Somalia. I have a friend in Massachussetts who helped raise four who were teenagers when they were freed and re-socialized. Those men all went on to university. What does Omar Khadr get?

What’s the difference? Religion. If we take the religious fear/bigotry/misunderstanding out of the picture we still have a teenage boy who was caught up in a war, fighting in battle. It’s pretty difficult to remove it completely, obviously but when someone is treated differently than other child soldiers and other soldiers because of fear and hatred, well it really puts into question the human rights abuses of the US. I wonder if George Bush will be tried for war crimes when all is said and done? Probably not. There is a bigger fear than religious bigotry and that is of the US setting an embargo against your country or riding slipshod over the Geneva Convention to suit its ends. Which country was it that used a nuclear device?

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Filed under Culture, family, politics, religion